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Album Review

The title on the album cover is actually Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly, an acknowledgement of the co-conceiver and costume designer for this Off-Broadway musical revue, who died of complications due to AIDS less than two months before the show's opening on August 14, 1996. Crabtree's imaginative costumes (which later won several awards) are on display only in the photographs that accompany this cast album, but the revue's success is demonstrated by the willingness of a major label to undertake a recording. Even in the score, with music by Dick Gallagher and lyrics by co-conceiver/sketch writer/director Mark Waldrop, Crabtree's sensibility comes through, however, as the very loosely structured plot begins and ends with a character named Howard (Michael West), a gay high-school student living somewhere in the vast reaches of American suburbia, whose only desire is to put on a show. That flimsy frame is enough to set up an evening celebrating the theatrical-homosexual connection. "Light in the Loafers" demonstrates that, even when a gay young man has escaped the suburbs for the big city, he may be found wanting on the Great White Way; "Wear Your Vanity with Pride" emphasizes the joys of dressing up; "Sam and Me" examines gay life back in the closeted 'burbs; and "Laughing Matters" is a serious, straightforward topical song about gay issues. The most striking numbers are "A Patriotic Finale," the Act I closer, which spans the country state by state in the manner of a novelty song, spotlighting gay contributions, and the three "Torch Song" interludes, each of them a send-up of a homophobic Republican, in turn Newt Gingrich, Strom Thurmond, and Rush Limbaugh. The six-member all-male cast handles the material with verve, and while the show may seem insular and intended mainly for a gay New York theater-loving crowd, in fact its good-natured manner, wit, and (no doubt) costumes helped it to a long run. (Ultimately, it lasted a full two years and 840 performances, closing August 15, 1998, after winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical of the 1996-1997 season.)

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